Chapter 13: Family

Night had fallen when we made our way back to the rendezvous point. Walter had chosen for us to setup in a courtyard, outside of one of the burned down shopping malls. The rubble provided plenty of cover, should we be attacked, and the place was big enough for several of the trucks Walter had brought, and the tents he’d set up. Miracle hurried off to the medical tent, and returned almost as quickly. That wasn’t good. It meant we had been the most successful. Together, the four of us walked towards what I could only assume was the command tent, followed by the almost mesmerized gaze of the many soldiers lounging around against the cold stone and dust on the ground. As we walked, I was sure I heard some of the men and women talking about where we were. I didn’t doubt they had lost people to the hellfire. It was probably what had drawn most of them to Shade, if the Northern Apocalypse hadn’t. I caught Cherufe’s arm as she tripped on some rubble, which wasn’t exactly the best thing to happen in front of a group of soldiers and ex-veterans, but she was tired, and wasn’t hiding it. Miracle brushed the tent flap aside, and ushered us into it, where we were greeted by Tempest, sitting in a chair with a massive cut on his head, and Atlantis was tending to it with a now very bloody rag. Miracle moved straight over to him, and when we’d made sure it was just the seven of us and Walter, Thunderbolt took off my helmet, and passed it to me.

“Thanks for healing him up. I didn’t want to give him this to just get blood all over it,” Walter said, finally turning away from his map of the city. He tossed over what looked like a one of those cheap, basic plastic masks, but when Tempest caught it, I got a slightly better look at it. It was Carbon fiber, of course, and perfectly molded to his face. It could probably stay on without the straps, but they were there, and he gladly took the very basic mask, and put it on. He lifted up his hood.
“Boo. I’m a ghost,” He said, waving his hands around like an idiot. Cherufe and Kronos found it funny. I did not.
“So how was it out there?” Walter asked, taking a seat at his makeshift desk.
“Bad,” I tossed my helmet up in the air, and caught it. Walter glared at me, wanting a little more than that.
“Well, I can’t speak for everyone but the first thing I did was blow up a motorcycle to beat a brute,” I said, and Walter shook his head.
“You’re going to get yourself killed someday, I swear,” He was smiling though, so he obviously appreciated the ingenuity of the plan.
“Well, it looked more like you threw it at him,” Cherufe said.
“Wait, seriously?” Miracle asked, and I was once again reminded that, for as well as she could see, she was entirely blind.
“Yeah. Then we got into a bit of a fight with more of Streamline’s goons, and swept through the area until we reached where Atlantis and I last saw him. There was a woman there that seemed like she could control stone. She didn’t have any useful information, other than the fact that Streamline’s goons will choose to go with death, rather than turning into a brute,” I said, and Walter smiled.
“So he rules through fear. Sounds like someone else I know, just on a slightly different level,” Walter said, and turned to Alan.

“You think my father’s involved?” He said. Wait, his father?
“I think he’s going to get involved. He does have the obligation, now that a private army has a sizable presence here,” Good lord I am an idiot. Alan and Penelope Harrison, the son and daughter of Alphonse Harrison, the president of Oceania. That wasn’t good.
“So be on the watch for what, then? How do we know when the actual army is getting involved?” I asked, and Walter grinned. He always enjoyed having more information than I did, but thankfully, I always had a few tricks up my sleeve.
“Well, my men are wearing urban camouflage. Black and grey camo. His men will be wearing the more traditional green,” He smiled, and turned to Thunderbolt.
“Now, I have one last question before I dismiss you all. Why on earth were you wearing Edward’s helmet, and not your mask?” I swear to god if anyone outside had heard that.
“I lost my contacts,” Thunderbolt said. She was surprisingly upfront about it.
“Doesn’t your mask have lenses in it?” He said, and she shook her head.
“I thought I told you to do that,” He put his feet up on the desk. He had too?
“Well, either way, it was good thinking to give her your helmet, after the other one was broken, I assume?” I nodded to him.
“Yeah. There was a shotgun. I handled it,” I cracked my knuckles, and he got my message.
“Good. Masks on, and head out to your tent. It’ll be the first one on your left when you head out,” Walter smiled, and the seven of us headed off to get some rest. It was seven o’clock at night, which gave us another five hours until Streamline met, if they always met at midnight. That was the problem with only one encounter, it didn’t provide enough evidence to form a solid theory. Oh well, I guess it was just something we had to deal with.

When we were back inside of our tent, the girls picked up bags of clothes that Walter had brought down for them, and hurried off to change out of their armor. It could feel quite uncomfortable to stay in it for too long, but I’d slept in it before, and I wasn’t about to give up an advantage by not wearing it. So instead of following their example, I unzipped where the chest piece attached to the pants, and pulled it off. I sat down on one of the canvas folding beds inside the tent, and pulled a blanket up over my shoulders. Walter had provided me with anything I could possibly need to find Streamline, including my laptop. I picked it up off of the trunk beside my bed, and flipped it open. All the while, Atlantis was staring at me. He pulled the water tank off of his back, and sat down across from me.

“I think its high time we discussed what you heard Streamline say to me,” Lake said. That was only slightly intimidating.
“The stuff about your brother? Or would you rather have me not know that your name is Lachlan?” I asked, and Tempest laughed. Well, that was a good sign.
“This isn’t something to joke about, Edward. The guy’s a murderer, and I want payback for what he did,” He said. That wasn’t good.
“Something tells me you know more than you’re letting on,” I said, and to my chagrin, he nodded.
“Well, I’m telling you now. My brother, Lionel, he was a cop. A good guy, pretty much the epitome of an upstanding citizen,” Is it weird that I was surprised to hear Lake use the word epitome? Am I an asshole? Yes, yes I am.
“He was given this assignment, back when Streamline was a small group of dealers and vandals. He was asked to look into how they were getting what they were selling, and to see if he couldn’t bring in the man in charge. Two days after he met up with Streamline, they found him with a needle sticking out of his neck.”
“Holy shit. I remember hearing about this. I didn’t realize that that was your brother,” I said, and Lake smiled.
“Of course you didn’t,” He said. I moved my fingers over the keyboard and brought up some of the news articles about it.
“Officer Lionel Jones found dead at age twenty-three. Damn. Oh, actually, that’s interesting,” I said, and Lake walked over to me to look at my laptop screen.
“What is?” he asked.
“This. They found him outside of a cafe on the main street. Cafe Roma,” I said, and he turned his puzzled look to me.
“What’s so important about that?” He asked.
“That’s in the ashes, and I know where it is,” I heard the tent flaps move open again, and the girls walked in. They definitely weren’t prepared to go back out again, and I wasn’t going to make them. They still had plenty of time to rest.

“Iris. Remember Cafe Roma?” I asked, and she turned to me like I was insane.
“Yeah, why?” There was fear in her voice. Lionel hadn’t been the only person found there. Gordon’s father had as well.
“Streamline knows who Lake is. The guy, not the group that is. I think he’s going to be there at midnight tonight,” I said, and Lake punched me across the jaw.
“So you want me to go back to where my brother was murdered?” Lake asked, well, growled.
“No, Streamline does,” I said. Everyone was glaring at me, and even Riley looked just a little bit worried about what I was saying. She was Lake’s friend after all.
“You never told me what happened,” Riley said, and stared at Lake. Oh, that is not good.
“I didn’t want to relive it. Still don’t,” That was fair enough. Even though I would never admit it, I was putting myself through more than enough trauma being beck here again, and that wasn’t just because of what used to be here. Not the nice little corner stores or the main street markets, or anything that used to be here really. Cafe Roma was our old meeting place, and I had half the mind to beat Streamline into the ground for this.
“Well, you can break my jaw later, Lake. For now, everyone here needs some rest. I’ll go tell Walter I have a lead,” I closed my laptop, and picked my chest piece up off of the ground, and left as the rest of the team started to chat away, eager to get away from the macabre topic of Lionel Jones.

*

I pulled myself out of bed when the alarm went off, telling the entire camp it was time to move out. Walter had agreed that my theory was the most logical course of action, and had sent a few men in advance to scope the place out. He’d then ordered me to go and get some rest. I had barely fallen asleep, but I still felt well rested. Atlantis was busy strapping his tank back onto his back, and Tempest was fiddling with the pouches of dust attached to his belt, and managed to spill some onto the ground. He swept it up on a light breeze, and moved it back into his pocket. The girls were doing the same sort of thing, and trying to help Thunderbolt with her mask issue. We didn’t exactly have anything spare, so I pulled my helmet off of the ground, and tossed it over to Kronos. She understood, and passed it over to Thunderbolt for her to put on. Once we were all suited up, and I had very quickly tuned the radio for us, and clipped my earpiece on, we headed out. Soldiers rushed passed us, but split away when they saw us. They knew about what we were, but they didn’t know who we were. Engines thrummed in the not-so-distant distance as we walked together, and the sound of boots on the ground was ever-present. Clouds of dust and ash were thrown up by every footstep. You could tell we were getting closer to where all of Shade’s vehicles were parked from the stench of motor oil, and the bright lights in the darkness. There were about six motorcycles lined up beside all of the trucks, and one or two SUV’s. The likelihood was we’d end up in the back of a truck being driven to this place, but then again, I had a tendency to make an extravagant entrance. Sitting in the back of a truck wasn’t really going to do that for me. I looked around very quickly, making sure there really weren’t any spare helmets, and there weren’t. Well, none that covered the face, anyway. We made our way towards the center of what I could only assume had been a parking lot, and lo and behold, Walter was waiting for us. I was expecting him to direct us towards our truck, but as we walked up to him, he signaled for us to stop.
“Skyfire, you’ll be leading the charge. Grab a bike,” He said, and pointed me over to them.
“Seriously? I though you knew where this place was,” I said, and he tried to smile, but really didn’t manage it.
“We do. There’s about thirty armed men waiting for us though, so I’d rather have someone well protected up front. If things go that way, your free to blow this bike up too,” He said, and that made him smile.
“What about the rest of us?” Miracle asked him.
“Thunderbolt will ride with Skyfire. The rest of you are with me,” He said, and Thunderbolt walked over to me.
“You’re okay with this?” I asked her, and she nodded.
“It’s not like I can disobey him,” She said, and followed me over to a bike. I could see her thinking about taking off the helmet to give it to me, but then she must’ve realized that I wouldn’t take it. She got a grip on my waist as I started up the bike, and I drove it out to the front of where the convoy was forming.
“This is Grey Leader to all units. Follow the bike at the front,” Walter said through the radio.
“This is Excalibur One to Grey Leader. Ready to move out on your mark,” I said, and quickly checked that Thunderbolt was alright behind me.
“We are good to go Excalibur One,” Walter said, and I revved the engine. We had half an hour to make it to the cafe, so it wasn’t like we were in a hurry, but I was rearing to go, and I didn’t want to put off this fight any longer. Streamline and his brutes had been enough of a pain in the ass for me over the past few weeks, and I really wanted to repay that.
“Let’s move out,” I said, and we took off.